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Bladder Cancer

The urinary system is composed of two kidneys, two ureters, the bladder, and the urethra. The kidneys remove waste products from the blood and form urine. Urine then travels through the tube-like ureters and is stored in the bladder before it is eliminated from the body via the urethra.

The bladder is the hollow-shaped organ that expands and contracts to collect and eliminate urine. As with all organs in the urinary system, the bladder is susceptible to developing cancer, the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. The wall of the bladder has several layers of tissue. Bladder cancer type depends on the types of cells and layers of tissue affected.

There are 3 types of bladder cancer:

- Transitional cell: This type of cancer begins in the transitional cells. These cells form the innermost layer of the bladder, allowing the bladder to stretch when it is full and shrink when it is emptied. It is the most common site of bladder cancer.

- Squamous cell: This type of cancer is a slow-growing cancer of the thin, flat cells that line the surface of the bladder.

- Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that begins in the glandular or secretory cells of the bladder.

Symptoms of bladder cancer can include:

- Blood in the urine

- Frequent urination, or feeling the need to urinate without being able to do so

- Pain during urination

Men are more likely to develop bladder cancer than women. Bladder cancer is more common in whites than in blacks. Risk factors for bladder cancer include:

- Smoking tobacco

- Long-term exposure to certain workplace chemicals, or carcinogens, such as those used in making rubber, textiles, paints, and dyed clothing

- A diet high in fats and fried foods

- Having a history of recurrent bladder infections

- Long-term use of urinary catheters

- Being over age 60

If cancer is suspected, diagnostic studies can include: Cystoscopy; an imaging study where a tube with a lens is placed into the bladder through the urethra. Urine culture and Cytology; laboratory studies that analyze urine for bacteria and cancer cells. Biopsy; the removal of bladder cells for examination under a microscope. Imaging studies; studies such as MRI, CT scan, and IVU (intravenous urography) that provide a detailed picture of the urinary system.

Treatment and prognosis depend on the stage and grade of the cancer and the location of the tumor. Treatment options for bladder cancer can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and biologic therapy.